YORKTON - When the B.C. Lions lifted the Grey Cup in 2011, it was a moment J.R. LaRose had long-pursued.
When he was a kid he would lift a wooden trophy when playing in the backyard, he told those attending Football Night In Saskatchewan Saturday evening in Yorkton.
So, with 56,000 fans watching in 2011 lifting the real Grey Cup “was a dream come true.”
LaRose said that he needed help to achieve the dream though.
“It wouldn’t have come true without coaches,” he said.
Coaches became a steadying influence in his life as a youngster when LaRose said he faced a number of challenges.
LaRose explained his mother was sent to a residential school as a young girl and “never dealt with what happened to her.”
As a result, she drank and did drugs.
“My mother was a full blown addict,” said LaRose.
LaRose’s father was not around either, having gone back to Nigeria.
“I grew up in a very dysfunctional home,” he said.
So once in school LaRose was soon getting into fights.
But, then a door opened to him. A teacher suggested he become involved in a sport to help channel his aggression. He was soon on the football field.
“It was like love at first sight,” he said.
And, it was at that point coaches began to help “building me up . . . my self-esteem.”
LaRose said school became his safe place six hours a day, football practice extending that another couple of hours.
That is how coaches become more than teaching sport, and LaRose said that should not be forgotten.
“Never underestimate the impact you can have on a child’s life,” he said.
But, LaRose almost fumbled the help away. He thought a college scholarship was automatically coming his way, and he slacked off, his grades dropped, and the college offers disappeared.
Then he caught a break. The Edmonton Eskimos offered him a try out, and he made the team being heralded as a local player making the team.
LaRose said it went to his head, and he fell into drugs and alcohol, and soon found himself off the roster.
“I knew I couldn’t blame anybody else,” he said,
So LaRose clawed his way back into the league.
“I didn’t want my situation to become my excuse in life,” he had said.
Back in the CFL he again faced hardships, including twice suffering severe legs breaks that had doctors doubting he’d ever play again, and teams cutting him lose as a result.
LaRose persevered though, and was back to eventually hoist the Cup as a Lion.
Along the way there was always a coach who helped him get better or took a chance to give him a shot.
“I’m forever thankful for coaches who invested in my life – gave me a chance,” said LaRose. “This is what it’s about the community of football.”